Is the Kindle doomed?

  • Is the Kindle doomed?

    No.

    Shortest article ever!  Woo-hoo!  ;)

    Well, let me modify that.  Not right away.  Not indicated by the price drops. 

    I mean, there is that whole entropy thing, and the Earth falling into the sun, and when they can beam information directly into our brains (which is all we are at that point…brains…which makes an attractive target for space zombies…but I digress).

    There have been a couple of articles recently from tech writers suggesting that dedicated EBRs (E-Book Readers) are doomed, and soon.

    “Ha, ha, silly readers!  No one will spend money on a book-reading device when they can have a tablet computer that shows books and movies and does e-mail!  That’s why they cut the prices…so they could get rid of that obsoletrons and put them in the museum with the buggy whips and 8-tracks!”

     Look, I get it.  You don’t like things that do only one thing.  You are multitaskers.  You don’t just want a Swiss Army Knife…you want a Swiss Army Knife with a 128mb USB flash drive!  You don’t want just a pen…you want a pen that has a stylus, and a flashlight, and, and, and…a laser pointer!  ‘Cause, you know, lasers are cool.  Oh, and all that despite the fact that you can’t think of the last time you even used a pen!  When somebody gives you a t-shirt, you say, “But what does it do?”  Detect wifi? Play my personal theme music and sound-effects?

    Believe me, I’m right there with you on the gadget thing.  I own that soundtrack t-shirt.  I carry two little multi-tools with me.  I always waited for the scenes with Q in the James Bond movies.

    E-book readers were around long before the Kindle.  I think one of the biggest reasons the Kindle slapped a defibrillator on the e-book market and shocked it into life is that it was easy to use for non-techies.

    “Yuck,” you say.

    “It should be smaller!  Faster!  Electronic!  And do more stuff!  Nobody reads any more!”

    Um, they do.  Readers spend a lot of money on paperbooks.  Oh, maybe not as much money as people spend on videogames, but the market is there.

    You know what?  Reading books is a quiet activity.  It’s a time to zen out, to let it all happen inside your head. 

    Screaming now?  Too quiet for you?

    I totally understand the “I love noise” thing.  I do usually read with other stuff going on.  I’m still freaked out by a Dexter’s Laboratory episode where nobody in the cartoon said anything for several seconds!  There was just some kind of little girl who just looked and blinked!  Aaaaahhhhh!  The silence, the silence!

    But…

    I love having an EBR.  I want to be able to just kick back and read, long-form.

    And I’m not alone.

    Would I like an iPad?  Sure.  I’d use it for e-mail and writing this blog and yes, movies.

    But I’d also want my EBR with me. 

    I think a lot of people will own both.

    Cars play MP3s.  Tablets and netbooks play MP3s.

    People still buy MP3 players.

    “But they cut the price!”

    Yes.  But that doesn’t signal the beginning of the end.  The price for the Kindle has already been cut several times (when it was introduced in November of 2007 it cost more than twice what it does today).

    Prices go down in electronics.  That’s the way it usually works. 

    Remember when you paid $2000 for a desktop computer?  $100 for a calculator? 

    Okay, a calculator might be a bad example…that market has dwindled, I’d say.

    Even a Kindle can do some calculator functions.

    Look, do you really think an 85-year old whose never been into tech (many of them have, by the way) would prefer an iPad to a Kindle?

    Yes, fifty years from now when the Boomers have all died out, things will be different.

    Things will be different tomorrow.

    But I don’t see the EBR going down in flames in the death spiral quite yet.  I think more of the devices will be sold in 2011 than in 2010 (and obviously, more in 2010 than 2009).  My guess is there is at least five years left in the market.

    You know, like cellphones.  When tablets can Skype effectively, does that mean cellphones immediately disappear?

    Not in my opinion.  A lot of people will stick with them for a while. 

    I could, of course, be totally wrong.  We’ll know in a year or so.  Maybe Amazon will just go back to being a content provider.  Maybe Sony will finally give up on EBRs, after all these years.

    Maybe.

    But sometimes, I do wish sunshine sold as well as gloom: that optimism outsold pessimism, and Chicken Little got fewer headlines than Pollyanna.

    Well, I could just say, “that’s not going to happen…if it bleeds, it leads.”

    But I think I’ll hold out hope.  ;)

    This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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    11 Responses to “Is the Kindle doomed?”

    1. Dave Freer Says:

      Hi Bufo – hope the new Kindle is going well. No, dropping prices often imply that the market is growing but there is competition. I read an interesting e-reader article in Business Spectator this morning -http://www.businessspectator.com.au/bs.nsf/Article/Kobo-Kindle-iPad-Apple-e-book-e-reader-Amazon-pd20100624-6PV7X?OpenDocument&src=blb

      which, on talley, makes the kindle out-score the others on most points, except kindle proprietary format.

      • bufocalvin Says:

        Thanks, Dave!

        It’s an interesting article, although unless things are different in Australia, seems a tad inaccurate. The Kobo can download by being tethered to a cellphone (at least in the US)…you don’t need a computer.

        It does make a passing reference to the Kindle’s format, but I think, correctly, doesn’t dwell on it. You can read Kindle books on so many types of devices now. The one big thing you can’t do is read it on a different brand EBR (although that may come with the Android app, at least with the Alex). The EPUB format may work on different EBRs…but the Digital Rights Management makes it pretty much as restricted as azw for most books.

    2. James Says:

      The Kindle is far from dead. I have made a number of attempts to read on an iPad. It doesn’t even compare. I have a Kindle DX and couldn’t care less about using the iPad to do any serious reading. It just doesn’t work. I don’t care how flashy it is, the animation of pages turning, or it’s glossy and flashy touchscreen. It is NOT a device for serious readers; it is a toy, something to play with.

      I would hardly consider a price drop to be of any significance other than the possibility that a new iteration of the Kindle 2 is about to be released. If there is one, I will buy it as a companion to my DX.

      • bufocalvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, James!

        I enjoy those field reports. :)

        My guess is that there is a new reader coming from Amazon fairly soon. I think they had intended to lower the K2i price when that happened, but bumped up the schedule in response to B&N.

        I’m just guessing, though. :)

    3. Phyllis Singler Says:

      You are absolutely right. The Kindle is not going anywhere and it is so much easier to read than the iPad..I personally have both and find the Kindle far superior to the iPad for reading because of it’s size and it is much easier on the eyes

    4. Sherri Says:

      My theory is that the market for EBRs skews older and more female than for most tech devices, so all the tech prognosticators aren’t noticing the EBR users; hence, all the ‘Kindle is doomed’ articles.

      • bufocalvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Sherri!

        I certainly think the age element is a reasonable hypothesis. There was a long-running thread in the Amazon Kindle community where people posted their ages, and that got analyzed and was a news story for a while. As I recall, the average age was in the 50s, but don’t hold me to that. I’ve read many stories with people in their eighties and nineties using and enjoying Kindles.

        I don’t know about the gender thing, but it’s certainly possible. Women traditionally buy more books (although it is less clear that they read more of them). At least one of the tech writers was female, although that certainly doesn’t remove any possible…attention focus.

    5. Carole Says:

      I always enjoy your articles, Bufo. I love my Kindle and doubt I would ever purchase an iPad, as it would just a luxury for me, something that I really don’t need.

      But I have a question, hopefully not a dumb one. If EBRs eventually disappear from the market, maybe in five years like you said, what will dedicated readers who don’t want an LCD screen read on then?

      • bufocalvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Carole!

        My guess is that we’ll have what I’ve called “Dualume” devices by then…once that switch between backlit and reflective. Initially, that might be two screens on the same device (maybe flip it over), but I could envision one screen that could do either. The other thing is that, as E Ink screens improve, they’ll be able to do non-e-book-reading functions. If you can (and do) watch movies and TV shows and websites with animation on an E Ink screen, it ceases to be a dedicated EBR.

    6. Wanda Alsup Says:

      I love my Kindle. I don’t want an ipad or any other device for reading books. I just want to read books. Hate watching movies etc on small screens & being tied to a computer for anything except when I really want or need a computer.

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